#China is taking football as THE sport for the 21st century. This seems bold, but the chinese are taking serious efforts to make this come true. It was reported by The Telegraph, in last September, that a number of Chinese billionaire investors are pondering to buy English and Spanish clubs. However, they are also developing future players, and that stage of their plan is already underway, in Portugal. Young Chinese players are arriving to the Iberian peninsula aiming to follow the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Futre and many others. The phenomenon is being reported by local major newspaper "Público".
The "Ledman Liga"
The Chinese have already invested in Portuguese lower teams, like Gondomar, Torreense and Pinhalnovense, currently playing in "Campeonato de Portugal", the third rate division of Portuguese #Football pyramid and the lowest at a national level. In Gondomar, there is also an academy, with around 15 young players, training and playing as a B team to the club. According to the portuguese newspaper, they are enjoying the country and have higher ambitions, wanting to compete at a different level.
Also, the Portuguese Segunda Liga (national second division, equivalent to the Football League Championship) is currently sponsored by Ledman, a chinese tech giant, until season 2018/19. According to Sapo, a portuguese news source, the amount of sponsoring is bigger than what the competition has amassed throughout the last 15 years. Several Chinese players are also competing in the "Ledman Liga Pro".
Along with these partnerships, there is even a Chinese club created on purpose to develop Chinese players, which is a complete novelty in Portugal, where clubs, along with the old European tradition, are always attached to their hometowns, even when they transcend its limits and become national or international brands. The club is Oriental Dragon FC, and is based in Almada, in Greater Lisbon.
The Portuguese newspaper also interviewed Bo Hao, a player in his mid-thirties, approaching the end of his career. In Portugal since 2012, he always played in lower teams, but says that Portuguese football is better than Chinese and has already a contract signed to a Chinese club. He will take his experience to his home country and participate in the Chinese football development.
Chinese national development plan
Bo Hao's expectations to develop a solid professional career in China, working in football, are not unfunded. Earlier this year, according to China Daily, the Chinese Football Association announced an ambitious multi-decade plan (eyesighting 2050!), aiming to create 70.000 football pitches, training 10.000 coaches and generating 50 million people acting around the game, including professional players, amateurs and school students. Seems a lot, but it's less than 4% of the total Chinese population.
Do you think that China will become a football powerhouse by the mid-centure? Leave you opinion below!